28 Jun 2010

Day 11 Doringrivier

I think I might have my days mixed up...mmm I should be on Day 12, but only did half a day on one of the days.
Today was game farming day. Saw waterbuck when going through a farm and kudu and ground squirrels and steenbuck.
My day started early with a 5am ride start, only to have a flat about 6:30. Eventually got it right and was on my way again. Concentrated hard to stay on track in Elandsberg.
My lunch stop was at a farm stall selling biltong and everything else nice and an ATM. Middle of nowhere. Lots of people stopping me wanting to know where I'm going and if they can give me a lift. They normally asked that while I'm pushing my bike. Hehehe
Wind, wind and more wind. Face got wind burned despite factor 40. Headwind slowed me down.
I think my body changed into a mineshaft. I open my mouth and food disappeared into a black hole. It is incredible the amount of food is needed to stoke this old engine.
I might be out of reception tomorrow, so you'll have to wait to get the next saga.

27 Jun 2010

Day 10 hofmeyer

I left Romansfontein this morning escorted by'Justin. One of the other riders. I assured him that I would be fine so with a sigh of relieve, not having to babysit me he pushed on ........too far. By the time I reached the top of the mountain, he only caught up.
Coming down the mpuntain was another story. A rocking n a rolling!! I did the rolling. Helmet, backpack, bike, in that order. The bike was stopped by a low bush so it all ended in one big heap, as my shoes were still cleated in. I wriggled myself loose and collected all my belongings.....water bottles, lube, marie biscuits, and one rubber glove. Couldn.t find the other.
Here in Hofmeyer I met Mr and Mrs Lord. Old farmers of the community but now living in town. He was the founder of the 100 miler horse riding event now in its 32th year. Every year the event takes place in August on the first Sat during full moon as the horses take off at 2am. Nothing about cycling......
When I came down the mountain pass and looked up, I saw the Karroo. What an amazing site. Had to stop and take a pic. Thats where my soul is, in the openess, the space, the unclutterness.
Thanks to all for messages, comments, and for watching my progress. It is a race.....for me to finish in 26 days.

26 Jun 2010

day 8/9

left early from Moordenaarspoort. So cold that after 1km I had to stop to put sealskin gloves on. Couldn't feel the tips of my fingers. Today would be my first solo ride. The idea is to stop over at Vaalbank to pick up my new light and cycle watch......except I hadto wait for it to arrive from PO.
Quick attaching job on my bike and I was on my way to Brosterlea. What I saw in the arly evening, were rabbits racing in front of the bike light. Fluffy tails jumping up and down. It doesn't matter how tired you feel, that makes the day special.
Amazed how the hosts at our stopovers absolutely spoiled us and look out for us.
Very interesting how farm, gates operate. A chain, a link, a lock......damn, it means gettting over.
Yesterday I had no reception, so this is today's version of events. The days are long, but what makes it easier on your own is dictating your own pace. Navigation took a bit of a knock today. I haven't had time to calibrate the cycling watch so it shows 300km and othr nonsense. No time to read booklet yet.
Got the hang of climbing over fences, and over is not always best. I found that out today when I had to balance on a barbedwire-spelling?- fence like a finch. Ripped my cycling short, and long leggingys, ...and my bum.
I,m at Romansfontein, snug in bed

24 Jun 2010

Day 8 Slaapkranz to Vaalbank.

I was very upset that the wrong support station box was send because all the wrong maps were in the box. I had to make do with narratives. Two brutal portages!!! It took us 7hrs to do 20km. Coming downhill I had a tumble and broke the light bracket. At 5pm this afternoon I was sitting next to road trying to fix it, so I could see. I'm at intermediate support station meaning half a day behind. -8 degrees this morning

Day 7. Rhodes to Slaapkranz

We left Rhodes in freezing temps. It was today that I decided that this is my experience and if I can't keep up with rest of riders, so be it. V tough portage. Lots of snow on the mountains. The dreaded blow out hit me but could fix it with gator and tube. Arrived at overnight stop at 18:25. 12and half hours of riding. Phew!

22 Jun 2010

day 6 Rhodes

I made it all the way to Rhodes. Climbed the dreaded Lehana's pass and made it! Such awesome scenery. Snow on the mountains, on the roads...ok, ok, I know, very unusual for SA.
My backup team did wonders. Race organisers will pick up new cycle watch and headlamp at the post office in Jamestown and drop it off at next support station. Thanks to Rodney and Gert, much appreciated.
My bike has been cleaned and lubed, washing been washed amd dried, tummy full... And legs tired.
Much tougher than I ever could have imagined. One day at a time.

21 Jun 2010

day 5 VUVU

made it to Vuvu! A small little rural village close to Mount Fletcher. The local school is catering for us and we are sleeping in their homes and in their beds. I feel priveledge.
Todays ride was the usual.....tough. Mount, dismount, up the valley, down on the other side. Bought alot of land today...I'm smiling at myself right now but not when I did the nosedives. Beautiful senery at Black Fountain...hopefully all of you reading this will google all these foreign names. All part of SA.
The last stretch today was across the river, next to the river and across again. We were accompanied by children on their donkeys racing with us and giggling all the time.
The last last stretch was up a steep rocky cliff and little children waiting for us to show us the way to the school where we had our meals.
Left this morning at 6 and arrived at 19:00. A long long day.

20 Jun 2010

Day 4 Malekgholoyane

What a name! And what a place! Our hosts are going out of their ways to treat us, food, dinner, ok that is food too.
Today was the most scenic so far. Crossing a huge floodplain with breathtaking views. Had a picnic on top of the mountain with 360 views. Always tough riding. Not all is rideable, but most is walkable.
Found some rough veld kids living by themselves next to a river and trying to sell us a skinned rat.
From our lodge we have a beautiful view. Also available for hikers and touring cyclists. The weather has been kinder to us.

day 2 and 3

No reception at the end of Day 2 at the end at Ntisikeni. What a day! Very long distance with major major uphills. Beautiful ride through forests, plantation and the natural forest at Donnybrook. The last 6km were never ending in the dark and having to pass 3 streams getting our feet wet. Needless to say I ended up with frosted toes.
Day 3: Freezing, freezing cold weather. The highlight of the day was seeing the snow packed mountains. Engredibly beautoful!! And the other was the wonderful reception at our lunch stop. Homemade soup better than Woolies. The absolute low light was when Ray's wheel's hub packed up. We made a plan there and then in the freezing wind. We ordered a new wheel to be delivered to us during the day along the way, but unfortunately only happened when we reach the stop at Masakala. Slow frustrating going. We could only manage 3k/h with some of the single track with difficult navigation. Take the left cattle track and hit a road on the other side ...... Lots of walking and tufties riding.

17 Jun 2010

day 1 Pmb to Allandale

what can I say. Tough, tough riding, snow on the mountains, bitterly cold weather n a robust wind. We left at 6am and arrived at 19:00.
An angel brought us hot tea n cake 8km from the end. an absolute hilight of Day 1
We crossed the mighty Umkomaas river thigh high and icey cold, just because Ray wanted to. It was not bad at all
Minervas lunch stop so interesting with a museum of anything old machinery and other mechanical inventions.
I'm tucked in a very nice warm bed with a teddy

16 Jun 2010

ready, steady, go!!

Here i'm sitting at Aintree Lodge, number on bike, bags packed, ready to go tomorrow at 6am. Was very cold this morning but weather seems to warm up a bit
Nervous is a understatement

14 Jun 2010

Live tracking

If you would like to watch where I'm going and also to see where I'm losing the track, please go to http://www.freedomchallenge.org.za/

Click now on Live Tracking. The username is: freedom
                                                 The password is: password

Yeah, I know, not very original. If you have a look now, you will be able to follow the riders who started the previous two days, as well as the bunch who left Pietermaritzburg this morning.

I'm off on Thursday in Batch F.

Lots of happenings at the moment. From navigational problems and broken wheels and a broken freewheel. I'll stay in touch.
Just a reminder that the gym will be closed and will only open again on Monday 12 July.

3 more days......

Three more days to my Freedom Challenge start.
This is what the race organisers had to say:

2010 Freedom Challenge Racers gear up for the 7th Race Across South Africa

Pietermaritzburg June 11, 2010 - With the world's attention focussed on South Africa, the 2010 Freedom Challenge Race Across South Africa is about to begin. Called the soul of mountain biking, the Freedom Challenge is a mountain bike race; along a 2300km course that stretches from Pietermaritzberg, over the Drakensberg, across the Great Karoo Basin, through the Cape Fold Mountain Range and finishes at Diemersfontien in the winelands of the Western Cape.

The race begins when the first batch of riders departs from in front of the City Hall in Pietermaritzburg at 6am on Saturday June 12th with the goal of arriving at the finish before the 26 day cutoff. The race occurs on the visually stunning Freedom Trail , which was created in 2003 as a fully serviced mountain bike trail running across the interior of South Africa. The Trail is a breathtaking mountain bike route that links nature reserves and remote wilderness areas. The Freedom Trail was created with the intention of ensuring meals and accommodation are available every 50- 80 kilometres making it possible to travel across South Africa off road and unsupported. The rest of the field of 39 racers in the 2010 Freedom Challenge Race Across South Africa will depart in batches over the course of the next week, with the last group setting off on Saturday June 19th.

In addition to cycling, some riders have prepared for the 2010 Race Across South Africa by hiking Table Mountain with a bicycle on their back, sleeping in the garden to get used to the freezing temperatures of the Drakemsberg and trying to load two litre ice cream containers, that will be available at the 26 support stations, with as much food and clean socks as possible.

This year’s race lineup includes, five Australians, a Mauritian, six female competitors and one racer, sponsored by GIANT, riding the challenging distance on a single speed bicycle. Andrew Barnes, Keith Little and Leon van der Nest are completing the Extreme Triathlon. They will run from Durban to Pietermaritzberg on Friday 18th June in the 85km Duzi Trail run. The next morning they will set off as part of the last batch of riders in the Race Across South Africa. They must reach Wellington in time to paddle the 240km Berg River Canoe Marathon.

The race this year is guaranteed to be an epic battle. 'Commander' Carl Crous who is competing in the Freedom Challenge for the third year, and his racing rival Marnitz Nienaber are expected to be major contenders in this year’s race. Other contenders include second place 2010 Tour d'Afrique racer Jethro De Decker and his Cape Town based mountain bike racing brother Zane. Jethro completed the 10 country 120 day Tour d'Afrique ride less then three weeks ago and is looking forward to putting away the slick tires and returning to the dirt. "I love mountain biking. I think the most challenging part of the race will be putting the bike down and forcing myself to get some sleep. It will be difficult to get off the bike after cycling through some of South Africa's epic mountain bike trails", says Jethro De Decker. Another threat is accomplished mountaineer and south pole trekker Alex Harris. Harris, who is use to isolated areas in the world ha ving climbed the Seven Summits, is looking forward "to seeing some of the most remote parts of South Africa". Other returning racers to watch for include Andrew Barnes, who led much of the 2009 racee, Allen Sharpe and Mark Mitchell. Mitchell, who finished 3rd in 2009, is looking forward to another epic ride, “I went away from the Freedom Challenge in 2009 knowing that we live in the most spectacular beautiful country with the most amazing incredible kind people in the world. I want to experience that again, and of course there is always the issues you have with yourself that have to be resolved. In a race as gruelling as this one, you have to dig deep to conquer and overcome your weaknesses".

The 2010 Race Across South Africa has already claimed its first casaulty. Competitor Jaco Strydom completed the Freedom Challenge in 2008, shortly thereafter he was diagnosed with cancer. He has devoted much time since introducing riders to the Freedom Trail. Strydom is also working with the Freedom Challenge to extend the trail northwards towards Kilimanjaro. On 29 May 2010 he set off from Beit Bridge with a view to riding 1400 kms along the proposed extension of the Freedom Trail to arrive in Pietermaritzburg in time for the start of the 2010 Freedom Challenge. He rode 1000kms through the Wolkberg and into Mpumalanga. Three days ago descending the Drakensberg escarpment at Kaapsehoop, into the battlefields of northern Kwa Zulu Natal, he fell and broke his ankle. He will be watching the race from his hospital bed.

Freedom Challenge Director David Waddilove is looking forward to this year’s race. "The Freedom Challenge offers participants a unique opportunity to enjoy some of the most spectacular parts of rural South Africa and to experience the diversity of her people whilst taking on this extreme endurance event. Some riders will be racing against each other; others will simply be looking to finish within the 26 day cut off. Some riders will battle with the elements, including freezing winter temperatures and snow. Others will battle with injuries or mechanical failures. All of them will be tested physically and emotionally and in ways that they have not previously experienced, whether they be Freedom Challenge novices or veteran campaigners. The true test of each of them will lie in how they respond to this challenge. So not only is it a journey across the country but it is a journey into the soul.”

The 2010 Freedom Challenge Race across South Africa can be followed live at www.freedomchallenge.org.za.

Issued by Freedom Challenge Race Office


7 Jun 2010

Kremetart 2010

We left Friday afternoon for the Kremetart road race up to the north in the Limpopo Province. Traffic, traffic and more traffic. Leaving the city behind, passing Polokwane and the new soccer stadium (you will have to help me out with the name of it), and then the final stretch to Louis Trichardt. We quickly settled into our rooms and then off to dinner, a drink or two and some race strategies.
The next morning dawned crisp and clear. I was grouped into the racing ladies group and was a bit apprehensive of what to expect. The last thing I wanted was  having to cycle the whole 175km on my own. Do you see the mountain? We had to cycle over the mountain, down the other side, around it and then back.
As always the Kremetart was so well organised. This year they went one step further and had sections of the road closed while the race was in progress. As soon as all the cyclists passed, the road was reopened. Enough signs were put out on the roads to warn motorists.

We reached the first stage stop (53km) without any incidents, having to race at high speed through two tunnels. Yogurt drinks, soup, sandwiches, muffins, all for the taking.
Also a first this year was the bike park. It was wonderful to leave your bike while you could have a drink and something to eat. And true to the name of the event, the baby baobab tree was watching over the bikes. The weather was turning warm and we were getting ready for stage two.
After a gruelling stage two (48km) with the wind against us, we reached the lunch spot at Vivo. ( Normally this is the easiest of the stages but not this year). A big marquee was put up for shade and lunch was prepacked and ready to be gobbled up by hungry cyclists. Some of them started to show some strain. We did our best to encourage them to keep on to the end. They listened but their faces told a different story. 

On to stage three and a nasty last 1km uphill to the timing mat at Schoemansdal. With another 52km in the legs and on the bum, strain was felt and lots of massaging was taking place. A nice shady spot under beautiful big trees, and an interesting array of sweets and salty bits in the lucky packet at the end of this stage, made it a very peaceful resting place. Between us and the end was only 22km. One little Otto's Hill and then down into the town of Louis Trichardt and to a cold beer.
We lined up for the last start. The uphill felt forever, I lost my chain, quick stop, chain back and now racing downhill to the end. Rodney, who did the 76km earlier in the day, was waiting for us at the end. I envied his fresh, rested look. The beer was cold, the potjies even better. 
Awesome venison, beef and chicken potjies. We ate till our tummies took on the roundness of the pots. After lots of prizes being handed out, it was time for bed. To wake up the next morning, looking up at this huge mountain was just awesome. After a hearty breakfast we took the road back. 
 The trip was made worthwhile for Mario, when he was welcomed home like a hero. 

It was once again such a well organised event, definitely not to be missed. Put it in your diary for next year and experience bush veld hospitality at its best.

1 Jun 2010

16 Days to go

16 Days to go before I start the Freedom Challenge race. Here are the viewing times on TV to whet the appetite.

Variously described as the soul of mountain biking, the race that will change your life and a journey through the diversity of South Africa - watch a group of riders take on the 2300km non stop Freedom Challenge mountain bike Race Across South Africa

31 May 2010 20:30:00 SuperSport Seven
01 June2010 11:00:00 SuperSport Two
02 June 2010 13:00:00 SuperSport Seven
02 June 2010 22:00:00 SuperSport Five
03 June 2010 10:00:00 SuperSport Six
04 June 2010 11:30:00 SuperSport Five
04 June 2010 22:00:00 SuperSport Five
05 June 2010 22:00:00 SuperSport Five
05 June 2010 09:00:00 SuperSport Five
06 June 2010 04:00:00 SuperSport Five
07 June 2010 10:00:00 SuperSport Six